The ongoing monumental effort to reform the Chicago Police Department suffered yet another blow Thursday with the abrupt resignation of the deputy inspector general for public safety.
After just six months on the job, Laura Kunard is resigning from her $137,052-a-year position.
The resignation that will trigger another exhaustive nationwide search takes effect next week. Kunard will return to her role as senior research scientist for CNA, a non-profit research organization that works on policing initiatives for the U.S. Justice Department.
Kunard’s abrupt departure is an embarrassment to Inspector General Joe Ferguson, who chose her after a painstaking search.
It’s also another blow to police reform.
After assembling the new Civilian Office of Police Accountability, Sharon Fairley resigned to run for attorney general. That left the critical oversight agency that replaced the Independent Police Review Authority without permanent leadership.
And Mayor Rahm Emanuel is still negotiating a consent decree with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan—with rigid timetables and financial commitments —even though Madigan filed a lawsuit against the city in August to force federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said Kunard’s resignation is “disappointing”— even though Lightfoot said she “hasn’t seen any work product produced” by Kunard.
“I don’t think we’re spinning our wheels. But we’re not moving forward as expeditiously as we can,” Lightfoot said.
“It’s gonna be very incumbent on the relevant stakeholders who care about these issues to keep the pressure on, frankly, to get to the conclusion of the consent decree process as quickly as possible and make sure that both COPA and the public safety IG have the right leadership in place so they can perform the critical function of oversight.”
Although Kunard has been largely invisible, Lightfoot described the job she held as critical.
“The position is envisioned to be a truth-teller, neutral reporter of the facts. To evaluate what’s going on with every piece of accountability infrastructure. The Police Department, IAD, COPA as well as the Police Board. We’re not going to be able to fully restore public trust without this critical piece being in place and doing its job,” she said.
“The public safety IG was also intended to provide critical analysis of settlements presented to the City Council. That hasn’t happened. At the end of 2017, we had almost $100 million in settlements and judgments against the city that were voted upon, yet there was no analysis done. That can’t continue. This needs to get right and quickly.”
A press release from the inspector general’s office announcing Kunard’s resignation gave no reason for her departure.
It simply quoted Kunard as saying it was an “honor and privilege to serve the city I have called home for 20 years in a field that I love dearly.”
“I believe the Public Safety section … is well on its way to doing groundbreaking work that will create a newfound accountability in Chicago,” Kunard was quoted as saying.
Ferguson thanked Kunard for her brief service and said, without explanation that Chicagoans “can expect to see the fruits of the team she has built reflect in work and public-facing initiatives in the coming weeks.”